My experience with Proper Suit taught me one important thing: Not all made-to-measure suiting is made equal. It’s not just about the amount of fabrics available or what details you can have, but it’s largely also about the skill and expertise of those fitting you.
The guys behind Proper Suit, McGregor and Richard, have a great deal of experience and familiarity with their product and service. When they offered me the opportunity to review a suit from them, I was admittedly a bit nervous when they managed to just eyeball measurements and adjustments without a tailor’s measuring tape.
But that comes from having spent an incredible amount of time fitting guys in eleven different cities, starting right here in Chicago. Unlike some lesser made-to-measure operations that let you simply enter in a few measurements online, Proper Suit insists upon an in-person appointment to fit you to a few base-model suits and make the necessary adjustments.
And these adjustments aren’t just for things like sleeve length or tapering the chest. They took into account my posture and where the best buttoning point would be on my torso so the lapels would lay correctly.
The armhole size was raised a bit to accommodate the fit I wanted, but it wasn’t too extreme as I intended for this suit to be more for business dress. The height of the chest pocket was adjusted to be more in proportion with my torso length.
When it comes to shoulders, they really stressed over every aspect, from the slopes of my shoulders, to what kind of padding to go with (I went with a natural shoulder), to how the sleeve ought to be rotated to make it drape properly.
"Our fit specialists are not only just really cool guys," McGregor said. "But they are very technical and take fit very seriously."
My experience on the fitting definitely reflected that. While it was casual and relaxed, I felt that the two of them definitely “got it” in terms of knowing what to care about and how to manipulate the pattern being made to flatter your body the best.
There are 300 different fit check points that goes into consideration when the pattern is entered into AutoCAD. Because of all the different adjustments needed to account for your body’s shape, Proper Suit flatly rejects the idea of just having guys enter in a few self-taken measurements and shipping a box to their door, like some competitors do.
I think McGregor’s reasoning why Proper Suit avoids online MTM made a lot of sense:
"Two people may have very similar measurements but they have completely different postures, different tastes and different reasons for wearing the suit. How do I know which fit will be correct? I don’t. You are also relying on someone else measuring you. That is just flimsy. I hear a lot about remakes that other companies need to do to dial down the fit. Remakes for my business are toxic to our bottom line. That is why we take upmost care in getting it perfect the first time and we can offer this kind of quality at this price point."
This is what leads me to my sentiment that not all made-to-measure suiting is created equal. Before even getting into fabrics, construction and details, the fit has to be perfect.
And when it came to fabrics and details, the sky’s very much the limit. There are about 250 fabrics available with 80 different linings.
Details on the suit (or sport coat) can include all the usual things like a throat latch, sueded lining under the collar, monogramming, surgeon cuffs, ticket pockets, etc.
But I found the details on the trousers to be actually surprising. The hem of the trousers have an extra strip of fabric sewn on the inside edge to give them extra weight to keep them down. The waistband has a strip of grippy fabric on the inside to help keep your shirt tucked in. This isn’t something you’ll find on most off-the-rack trousers, for sure — and they weren’t included with another MTM suiting operation I tried. In fact, the only time I’d seen these details were from my tailor’s bespoke trousers he did for his customers.
As for the suit itself, I went with fairly standard details. Flapped jetted pockets, two-button, notched lapels, flat fronted trousers with jetted slanted pockets and no cuffs, kissing buttons (non-functional), boutonniere hole and loop, suede under-collar lining with monogrammed initials.
The fabric is a navy blue sharkskin texture from Loro Piana’s All-Season line with a silver Bemberg lining and a light-blue printed piping.
The construction is full canvas and the lapels roll amazingly well. They suggested I wear it several times to help break-in the jacket a bit and I did find the suggestion made it decidedly less stiff than when I first put it on. And it really felt great after an evening of dancing at Double Door — so, yes, you can move in this suit.
In terms of pricing, Proper Suit lists their prices on their website and Loro Piana fabrics start at $1,250 (for comparison, if you were to head to the Loro Piana retail store to do their MTM program, their suits start at $5,500 and it takes three months turnaround). Proper Suit’s base model fabrics start at $750.
The one question I almost always seem to be asked, especially on higher-priced items, is, “Is it worth the money?” I can imagine some people will browse over to Indochino and see they could get two suits for the price of Proper Suit’s base model — assuming quantity is a better deal, or that paying half the price would be a steal in comparison.
The difference is that I don’t believe there’s a legitimate comparison. For one, the fit I received from Proper Suit absolutely blew away the fit I received with Indochino (and I even received an in-person fitting with them during their Traveling Tailor program). The attention Proper Suit just pays to their suit’s shoulders is more attention than what Indochino paid to the fit of my entire suit. Proper Suit even hand-stitches the shoulders of their suits to make sure it fits you better.
And once you get into construction, Proper Suit also wins out. For an additional $250, you can have your suit entirely handmade. And while the suits are manufactured in China, McGregor — who happens to also be fluent in Mandarin — stressed to me that not all factories are the same and they’ve spent years finding the best manufacturer for their suits, which also makes suits for some other really big-name labels, and they work with them to ensure they’re producing the best-fitting suits the first time for each new customer.
Admittedly, made-to-measure isn’t for everybody or everyone’s budget, but when you consider the prices of some ready-to-wear suiting brands, it’s worth considering the alternative, too. The price is a good deal considering the fit, fabric and construction.
Wearing this suit made me wish I had a reason to wear a suit more often — or at least find more excuses to wear one. These guys care immensely about the finest individual details while providing a good value. Consider this review a recommendation for Proper Suit.
Several weeks ago I was invited by Indochino to check out their “Traveling Tailor” event. I would go through their measurement and try-on process, be allowed to pick the details of a suit and then receive a comped suit to review.
When I first heard about Indochino a while back, the idea did appeal to me: a custom suit for under $400?! Then, after learning more from others who have tried them and seeing that the process either went really well or not quite so great, I’ll admit to having lost the enthusiasm for trying it.
Let’s be honest: doing anything MTM, especially online, is risky. You might not take your measurements correctly and I’ve rarely had any custom-made item perfect on the first try. And with suits, there’s a lot of variables at play that have to be weighed to make sure you get the correct fit. There’s a reason bespoke suiting takes several fittings and also looks the best.
The “Traveling Tailor” appealed a bit more to me as an idea, if only because it removes the whole process of self-measurement from the equation. This is my largest gripe with online MTM services, because the business has no quality control on the customer’s ability to take correct measurements, and you have no idea as the customer how your measurements will be interpreted.
The “Traveling Tailor” process is simple: a pop-up shop appears in a city, you schedule an appointment and they take measurements and fit you to a suit model. For the first few minutes a salesperson goes through the process of taking a tailor’s tape to your basic measurements and enters them all into an iPod Touch.
After the measurements are entered, I assume the app gives a suggested suit size. You’re then handed a pre-made suit off a rack that corresponds somewhat closely to your measurements and you try it on in a tiny curtained off temporary dressing area.
The app put me originally in a suit size too small. The pants felt like jeggings and the jacket gave me zero movement in my shoulders and arms. The second suit fit a bit better, going one size up.
From there, more alterations are made. Letting out or taking in hems or cuffs. I had them adjust for the excess fabric along the back of my shoulders. You get a close approximation of how it’s going to turn out, but it’s hard to be entirely sure.
After measurements are done, you’re taken to check out fabrics and styles. Entire sheets of the various fabrics are draped on displays so you can feel them and get an idea of what they look like visually over a large area — no tiny swatch books here. Same went for linings, which looked more like flags on a pole.
They had lots of forms setup, too, with various jackets styled on them with all sorts of colorful combinations and details to show off what’s possible. And they really do have quite a bit of options available. You can pick types of pockets, stitching, contrasting threads, surgeon cuffs, interior pockets, etc.
In the end, I kept it really basic: dark charcoal, single-breasted, two-button, notch lapels, no surgeon cuffs w/ kissing buttons, jetted pockets, navy lining, double-vented.
Overall, the experience is nice. I didn’t feel particularly rushed and you can definitely take your time picking the different design details. Being rather conservative, I opted to not take advantage of stuff like ticket pockets or flashy linings. I think it’s easy to get carried away with options like that and wanted to see how a basic charcoal suit would be executed by them.
Then, the wait. A few weeks later, this box appeared:
The suit came a bit beat up. It was wrinkled and definitely needed a pressing — so badly that one of the lapels had a very significant crease in it. Also, it didn’t come with a hangar, so you’ll need to provide you own suit hanger. These might be little things, but I’ve yet to buy a jacket or suit online that didn’t ship with at least a plastic hangar with wide ends for shoulder support.
Shipping methods aside, I’m primarily concerned with fit. Here’s the overall shot:
If I’d received this suit maybe a year or two ago, I’d probably be OK with the fit. It certainly doesn’t look terrible or extremely poor fitting, however, it’s not something I would wear right now. There’s multiple reasons, which I’ll detail, that will likely keep this in the closet for me.
First, the jacket (you can see the creasing from shipping as I lightened the photo a bit here):
I’m OK with the overall length and even with the sleeves and where they landed. They actually nailed that part (I prefer to show 0.75” to 1” of cuff). However, the most crucial part that needed to be perfect is really quite off: the shoulders.
Indochino’s suit has a lot of shoulder padding. They could remove half of its thickness and do much better. I don’t exactly have “built” shoulders (as I don’t hit the gym at all) and am actually quite boney, but the padding is so big that it makes it appear I’m wearing football pads and almost squares off my shoulders.
Additionally, the shoulder width is about 0.5” too wide on each side and the shoulder padding doesn’t help this at all. In fact, the shoulder padding makes it worse and produces divots.
Even with Indochino’s $75 alterations credit, this isn’t something a tailor could alter and fix cheaply. Altering to narrow the shoulders on a jacket is something I’ve done once and it turned out badly and was expensive. Plus, there’s still the issue of shoulder padding, which would need to be replaced — and that would probably negatively affect the balance of the jacket, too. Frankly, doing such alterations isn’t worth my tailor’s time or the money.
Which is a shame, as I’m not against the jacket besides these facts. Sure, the lapels are narrower than I’d like on a suit, but if you’re into that sort of thing, it’s fine. The button stance is higher, but I’ve got higher button stances on several jackets I own, too. For me, the jacket’s wearable if it weren’t for the shoulders.
As for the trousers:
The trousers have a really, really low rise on them. Lower than any trousers I’ve owned, even from J.Crew. I asked during the measurement process if a higher rise was possible and I was basically told it wasn’t.
The trousers are definitely trim. They actually were a bit long on the hem, but that’s because I told them to make them a bit longer. If I were to get these altered, I’d take up the hem about 0.75” or 1”.
The pants definitely feel a bit tight. If you have larger thighs, I could see this being a bit problematic in combination with the lowered rise.
They’re not unwearable though, especially if you’re used to a lower rise on trousers and skinnier. For me, they’re kind of pushing their slim-fitting abilities on my upper leg area and get a bit tight when sitting.
So, what’s my overall verdict on Indochino?
I don’t think I could recommend them to someone in most cases.
For their introductory $380 base price, it’d be an OK idea if you’re on a tight budget and have weird measurements that prevent you from buying from other off-the-rack places. Otherwise, I’d suggest going with the many other off-the-rack options out there in the same price range.
I should point out that this suit didn’t work out for me mainly because of the shoulders of the jacket. If that’d worked out, I’d have a more-positive review. I could probably wear this suit out in public and most people wouldn’t call me poorly dressed. But I’m a very picky person who notices stuff like overly-padded shoulders and not a fan of low rises. And if I’m not 100% comfortable about details like that, then I tend to just not wear the item.
There are definitely others who have had their suits work for them. If you’re considering Indochino — or simply want several other takes on them — consider spending time at Indochino Review, StyleForum, Ask Andy About Clothes and Put This On. And I’d definitely be on the lookout for Jeffrey Diduch’s Indochino review, as he’ll probably have a very good explanation about the suit’s quality and construction.
Of course, if you wish to try out the “Traveling Tailor” yourself, they’ll next be in San Francisco from September 18th to 23rd and will likely have other cities on their tour list soon.
Memorial Day marks the beginning of two well-known sartorial traditions: wearing white and wearing seersucker. While many would say to disregard using the days of the calendar to decide what you should wear and when, you can’t really disregard the common sense (or appeal) of wearing seersucker during the warm and sunny months.
I won’t try to convince you that owning a seersucker suit is a staple in your wardrobe, because odds are fairly good you won’t have too many occassions to wear it. I will say, however, it’s pretty easy to split up the suit and wear the items separately. And, best of all, there are a bunch of brands offering seersucker suits as separates, so you can just pick up a jacket, which I think is more versatile of the two.
You can pair the jacket with almost anything and it’s perfect for casual weekend days. I’ve worn a seersucker jacket with jeans, chinos of all colors and grey linen trousers. I find it’s a good jacket to have in your summer wardrobe.
Here’s a roundup of all the seersucker jackets I could find sold separately from their trousers. Many of them are still on sale today, so now might be the best time to get one until after the summer’s over.